An Introvert at a Funeral

Common funeral practices are sometimes a cruel joke played on introverts. Most of us accept that we live in an extravert's world. While the value of the introvert is gaining attention of late, society still holds the person with many friends and a gregarious personality as the model to mirror.

Funerals are no different from any other social construct. Long lines of mourners attend the successful wake. Giving eulogies for the deceased in a church with empty pews is just sad. Many traditions need a second graveside service followed by an open house at the home of the bereaved. People are everywhere. A friend recently said, "The only time my house is filled with people is when somebody in my family dies."

We all want and, in some ways, need people around during a time of death. It's comforting to know that others care. However, consider introverts. They are no different in that they need people around and they want people to show they care. They just don't need them around as much as the extravert does.

It's all about energy. Grief, sadness and depression are all emotional states that drain a person's energy. Once we get past the anger of losing someone, these feelings follow closely behind. During times of grief, we don't seek pleasure and we don't enjoy life. Our energy for such matters usually evaporates during mourning. The energy depletion is often intense and we sometimes hear phrases like, "I don't know how I'm going to go on with my life."

Funerals are to help the living come to grips with the death of a loved one. Healthy mourning allows people to pass through their exhausting sadness, to accept their loss and then to arrive at a "new normal". Energy gained from interacting with others helps the extravert during these times while social intercourse usually only exhausts the introvert's energy. So, when introverts lose someone, they not only have to deal with grief and sadness depleting their energy. They usually also have to run the gauntlet of social expectations which drains them rather than feeds them. It can become a double curse of energy loss.

Introverts often report others misunderstand them when they seek the restorative solitude that they need during these times. Some see the mourning introvert as rude and disrespectful for not being ever-present. Or others assess them to be worse off than they are. One person who identifies herself as introverted said her family became alarmed when she went off by herself for several hours during a time of family mourning and questioned her about suicidal thoughts. She had no such thoughts. She just needed some time alone.

Effective grief counseling is mostly about giving people permission to deal with death in the way that suits them best. For introverts, this does mean connecting with the people in their lives who care about them and the deceased loved one. However, it also means finding time alone to explore their loss and to gain energy, as they typically do, on their own. Most introverts will not want to isolate altogether.

It's less about getting away from others and more about being alone, however subtle that difference may be. People often describe a feeling of emptiness and a deep loneliness when the last mourner has left. However, the typical introvert will most likely feel gratitude for the mourners having come, but they will also feel relief that they are now gone.

So, whether you're an extravert or an introvert, when you face a loss, give yourself permission to do whatever it takes to get through the experience in your own way. And be generous enough to allow others to grieve in their fashion even if it doesn't feel quite right to you.

Have you had similar situations where others have not understood your introverted or extraverted behavior? Is it sometimes difficult to meet others' expectations because of a personality trait? Join us in the conversation. We'd love to hear from you.

1 week ago
(…an INTP.) When my grandparents died, I had become a believer in a certain sense, but not yet religious like I am now. My grandma died 1st, & I was really upset w/ myself b/c I’d meant to call her in the past wk, but hadn’t called. So I stayed in my rm & cried a long time. Would have hated to have to see or talk to people. Also regretted all the times I could have visited her but didn’t, & esp. when I had asked her for a ride to someone’s house, someone I discovered later was my enemy, & she had taken me. But was slightly relieved that once I had chosen to visit her instead of hanging out w/ my friends. Then there was a funeral, & everybody was at a funeral ‘home’ (which is not homey), & people asked, ‘Don’t you want to go say good-bye to her?’ but that didn’t make sense to me. I had said, ‘Good-bye,’ to her the last time we had talked. So I stayed at the back of the rm. Would have been too upsetting to go to the front where the coffin was & be confused, esp. since I had no idea what I would have been supposed to do—go up, stare at her body, then go away? That would have been weird. Didn’t have regrets at my grandpa’s funeral, but my family was offended that we didn’t stay in town the whole weekend. I guess they had just assumed everyone would. But my husband was tired. He’s an introvert too. Anyway, I had married a Byzantine Catholic, & then become religious. We haven’t had to go to any funerals yet, but I’ve read about them, & have been to memorial services. (There are a lot of the latter, multiple 1s/person. And, what if I told you…
2 months ago
Well... once I attended a funeral, I wasn't crying, but everyone else was, so I closed my eyes and thought about the death, and some tears came out. :P However the person wasn't a very big part of my life, so it didn't have a huge impact. I am still sad that they are now deceased.
4 months ago
INTP-T, when someone very close to me died, I kind of felt emotionaless but since very one was crying I felt like I needed to show emotions too , which I did but I still couldn't feel that emotion of sadness. I just felt nothing at all. But then in the later weeks I was having sudden outburst of tears which I didn't understand why. And ever since I have been living my life on autopilot mode(if that makes sense where I don't really care about anything at all)
6 months ago
Wow, I completely agree with this. When I first go to funerals, I’m always early so that I’m part of the few people there, along with time to mourn by myself. Thing is, I don’t let myself cry during funerals. Not a single tear slipped, is this common for me? I’m starring to think it is with the whole push my feelings aside, I’ve got no time for them idea. Anyway, this cleared up a bunch of stuff. Thanks!
6 months ago
I'm an INTP-A and this article cannot be more true. While other people can be comforting at such times, I feel as though people can also be intrusive in a matter that is so intensely personal.
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